Mao Hengfeng's Bittersweet Homecoming

Mao Hengfeng with her three daughters.

Mao Hengfeng, a human rights defender in China, a wife, and a mother of three, has just been released from her most recent bout of detention and torture — an experience so brutal that her life is at urgent risk.

Her crime? Advocating on behalf of women’s reproductive rights, the victims of forced evictions in Shanghai, and other Chinese human rights defenders.

Mao’s most recent arrest was a result of her protest in front of the Beijing municipal intermediate court expressing support for human rights activist and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo. On March 4, 2010, Mao was sentenced to 18 months in Re-education Through Labor.

While in detention, Mao suffered torture and abuse at the hands of the guards, the police, and even other inmates who were instructed to beat her. Her health deteriorated so dramatically that she was released on medical parole on February 22, 2011, but detained again a mere two days later.

While Mao Hengfeng was in transit to Shanghai City Prison Hospital on February 24, she was continuously beaten in the police car until she lost consciousness. During her time in the prison hospital, she was not allowed to communicate with her family, shower or bathe. If she moved without permission, she was beaten.

On July 28, 2011, the prison hospital released Mao Hengfeng while she was unconscious in a wheelchair. Her family had not received any advance notice about her release. In previous cases, Shanghai detainees have been returned to their homes shortly before dying so that the police and authorities can “wash their hands” of culpability for the deaths of the detainees.

Bearing this in mind, Mao’s husband Wu Xuewei requested that the Shanghai authorities send her to a nearby motel. When her family then attempted to transfer her to a public hospital, ten police officers guarding the motel prohibited her from leaving.

By July 31, Mao’s condition had ameliorated slightly, and she asked her husband to take her to church. When the police officers discovered her absence, they followed her to the church and aggressively attempted to beat her. Although members of the congregation intervened, the police warned Mao she could be detained again and that next time, she could die in detention.

In the past seven years, Mao has been tortured so often and with such severity that at one point she partially lost feeling on the left half of her body, and while at another time she lost sight and hearing for 24 hours. Shortly before the two-day medical parole in  February, a doctor found signs of bleeding in her brain from a CT scan. On the day before authorities decided to end Mao Hengfeng’s detention, she kept slipping in and out of consciousness, unable to eat or drink water.

As a result of the physical and mental abuse, Mao Hengfeng has contemplated suicide. She persevered, however, thanks to the international support that she has received over the years, including Amnesty International members.

Stand up for Mao Hengfeng, for her bravery in the face of the atrocities committed by the Chinese authorities and for her commitment to legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

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36 thoughts on “Mao Hengfeng's Bittersweet Homecoming

  1. God Bless this woman for doing what is right and for following her heart. And, God bless all the innocent people of China. I hope she continues to stay strong. Her good deeds are not in vain. She is making a difference.

  2. Take a good look at what you buy from China….Do you really need it? Is it worth it?

  3. I wish healing to Mao Hengfeng, and a piercing awareness of what they have done to all who have abused her.

  4. God Bless this woman for doing what is right and for following her heart. And, God bless all the innocent people of China. I hope she continues to stay strong. Her good deeds are not in vain. She is making a difference.

  5. Take a good look at what you buy from China….Do you really need it? Is it worth it?

  6. I wish healing to Mao Hengfeng, and a piercing awareness of what they have done to all who have abused her.

  7. We need to petition the corporations that do business and claim to have a social conscience — they need to reduce their business development and holdings in China until China stops their totalitarian abuse of their own people. Sanctioned bullying and torture should not be tolerated by those of us who want human rights for all.

  8. We need to petition the corporations that do business and claim to have a social conscience — they need to reduce their business development and holdings in China until China stops their totalitarian abuse of their own people. Sanctioned bullying and torture should not be tolerated by those of us who want human rights for all.

  9. I hope she makes it. She has the right to live a life with her family. They have done so much damage I actually doubt she would be working on Human Rights activism again. She has nothing to prove anymore. I hope she can go home and recover and live her life in peace. At some point, time will come when she will tell her story and someone will pick up from where she left. We would need many more Mao Hengfeng´s to make significant changes in China. Good luck to mao.

  10. I hope she makes it. She has the right to live a life with her family. They have done so much damage I actually doubt she would be working on Human Rights activism again. She has nothing to prove anymore. I hope she can go home and recover and live her life in peace. At some point, time will come when she will tell her story and someone will pick up from where she left. We would need many more Mao Hengfeng´s to make significant changes in China. Good luck to mao.

  11. Brave Lady, our hearts and minds are with you. We applaud your courage and integrity in the face of unspeakable brutality. Truly there is nothing we can say to hallow the work you have done; we are honored to have you in our lives.

  12. So sorry that we cannot help all the innocent people that have nobody to turn to. We must do all we can to relate to them the consequences of their evil ways. No we don't have to buy made in China goods, I'll try to find made in usa.

  13. Brave Lady, our hearts and minds are with you. We applaud your courage and integrity in the face of unspeakable brutality. Truly there is nothing we can say to hallow the work you have done; we are honored to have you in our lives.

  14. So sorry that we cannot help all the innocent people that have nobody to turn to. We must do all we can to relate to them the consequences of their evil ways. No we don’t have to buy made in China goods, I’ll try to find made in usa.

  15. Mao Hengfen you are a very brave,caring person. You haveso much already. It is time for you to enjoy your family and hope someone else carries on.

  16. Mao Hengfen you are a very brave,caring person. You haveso much already. It is time for you to enjoy your family and hope someone else carries on.

  17. May God bless and keep you, and may the prayers and meditations of the caring world follow you now and always.

  18. May God bless and keep you, and may the prayers and meditations of the caring world follow you now and always.

  19. if she stops activism that's what they want. she will do what she thinks is best. in this lifetime justice may be found.

  20. if she stops activism that’s what they want. she will do what she thinks is best. in this lifetime justice may be found.

  21. Mao Hengfen,
    Dear sister, be assured news of your extremes of suffering has touched the hearts of thousands of people. I cannot begin to imagine the mental and physical agony you have had to bear and earnestly hope you will recover soon. I wish that the perpetrators of such torture will one day get their just deserts.
    My sympathy extends to your family and and all who suffer for standing up for basic human rights and particularly for the rights of women.

  22. Mao Hengfen,
    Dear sister, be assured news of your extremes of suffering has touched the hearts of thousands of people. I cannot begin to imagine the mental and physical agony you have had to bear and earnestly hope you will recover soon. I wish that the perpetrators of such torture will one day get their just deserts.
    My sympathy extends to your family and and all who suffer for standing up for basic human rights and particularly for the rights of women.

  23. Think about this the next time you consider making a purchase of an item "Made in China".South Africa was boycotted for years. Why not China?

  24. Think about this the next time you consider making a purchase of an item “Made in China”.South Africa was boycotted for years. Why not China?

  25. Poor woman — just standing up for basic human rights.
    I agree with those saying we should not be buying goods from China — not only do they ignore human rights, and abuse their own people, they risk their health and those of even their babies (tainted milk, shoddy construction of schools), and do not care about the safety of exports to us.
    Yes, 'Think about this the next time you consider making a purchase of an item “Made in China"'.

  26. Poor woman — just standing up for basic human rights.
    I agree with those saying we should not be buying goods from China — not only do they ignore human rights, and abuse their own people, they risk their health and those of even their babies (tainted milk, shoddy construction of schools), and do not care about the safety of exports to us.
    Yes, ‘Think about this the next time you consider making a purchase of an item “Made in China”‘.

  27. I am sorry that you had to bare this burden Mao. I know in time the people who wronged you will meet up with there evil ways. I pray that God keep you safe. You will be in my prays .
    Love Rhianne

  28. I am sorry that you had to bare this burden Mao. I know in time the people who wronged you will meet up with there evil ways. I pray that God keep you safe. You will be in my prays .
    Love Rhianne

  29. Dear Mao Hengfeng,
    You are truly a valiant and heroic supporter of human rights. Your actions, and the horrible suffering you have had to bear in the name of justice, are an inspiration for everybody who believes in human rights for all, and it is such a heartbreak to learn about the terrible price you have been made to pay. We bless you and pray for you and for your return to health and for you to be back in your home with your family.

    With deepest admiration and condolences,
    Marion Webb

  30. Dear Mao Hengfeng,
    You are truly a valiant and heroic supporter of human rights. Your actions, and the horrible suffering you have had to bear in the name of justice, are an inspiration for everybody who believes in human rights for all, and it is such a heartbreak to learn about the terrible price you have been made to pay. We bless you and pray for you and for your return to health and for you to be back in your home with your family.

    With deepest admiration and condolences,
    Marion Webb

  31. Dear Mao Hengfeng,
    It is hard for us/me to even begin to understand the suffering, mental and physical that you have experienced. Be assured you are in my thoughts. I shall endeavour to avoid buying any goods made in China.
    In solidarity I wish you and your family well,
    Maureen Berlin

  32. Dear Mao Hengfeng,
    It is hard for us/me to even begin to understand the suffering, mental and physical that you have experienced. Be assured you are in my thoughts. I shall endeavour to avoid buying any goods made in China.
    In solidarity I wish you and your family well,
    Maureen Berlin